So, the one thing we all have right now is time. I’m not necessarily saying that it’s quality time because honestly, I can’t think of a time in modern history where there have been so many distractions in our own homes – from the news to our kids to sanitizing surfaces to googling for instructions on how to sew facemasks. It’s exhausting. But still, if we’re smart about it all: we have a little time in the bank from not commuting, not traveling for work, not going to after work functions.
And honestly, I’m never one to waste a good crisis. Because to me, crisis is opportunity.
I know, I know – it’s too soon to push a little bit of silver lining while we’re still living in a horrible global pandemic, but hear me out: hopefully, some of this extra time you have is being focused on you. And if you’re reading this right now, you’re probably looking to turn the page to your next chapter. We’re here to help (as you know we always are).
So, if you’re ready to keep your divorce moving forward in the coming weeks and months while we have this (little bit) of extra time, here’s what you need to do:
1. Remember: you don’t need to go to court in California to get a divorce
It’s true. In California, you have any number of options to stay out of court. You can DIY the paperwork on your own, you can work with a mediator to come to agreement, or you even can hire a private judge. At Hello Divorce, we are committed to keeping the divorce process moving forward efficiently and affordably for you – and that means keeping your divorce out of court. You don’t need the extra stress or expense.
2. Get organized
The Hello Divorce Worksheet is an editable document that you can use to help think through all the questions you’ll need answers to as you start the divorce process. From asset and debt division to child custody, child/spousal support decisions and more, we help you think through what you need to consider before you start to complete your divorce paperwork.
3. Start the paperwork
There are 20+ mandatory forms required by the California divorce process. Quarantine is a great time to get that paperwork started! Make it even easier by using our Divorce Navigator, which walks you digitally through all the questions you’ll need to answer for each form, in plain English, and lets you save your work as you go. When you’re finished, the click of a button generates your California divorce paperwork, along with our step-by-step instructions on how to file that paperwork with the court. DIY Divorce members ($99/month – cancel anytime) can access the paperwork generating feature of the Divorce Navigator for free.
4. Decide what you truly want
To finalize your divorce, you and your spouse must come to decision on three key things: property and debt, child custody and child/spousal support. You’ll need to draft a settlement proposal to set the terms of agreement for property and debt and to move the negotiation/settlement discussions forward.
5. Interview and choose a mediator
You and your ex may not agree on much, but you probably agree on the need to keep your divorce out of court. After all, a traditional, lawyer-assisted divorce costs $26,000 on average – per person – in California and likely ends up in court, which adds to your overall fees. In these uncertain times, do you really have that kind of money to spare? We didn’t think so. That’s why we recommend mediation. And why we offer advice for working with an online mediator, in these social distancing times.
6. Get a strategy in place
To get what you need or want out of your divorce – and, remembering that this process should be an agreement, not a “win vs. lose” for anyone – you’ll need to get a strategy in place. You can talk to a member of the Hello Divorce legal team for a flat-rate fee, in as little as a 30-minute increment, to decide how to approach your case. Your attorney or legal coach can help you think through strategy and determine leverage or exposure in your case so you’re as prepared as possible.
7. Work through your coparenting plan
If you have kids, now is the time to think through your coparenting plan. We’ve developed this handy downloadable worksheet that will get you started in thinking about child custody, visitation schedules and how to prepare your kids for the new normal.
8. Courts will reopen, and you’ll want to be at the head of the line
If you and your spouse are on the same page about all of this, spend this quarantine time hunkered down completing your financial disclosures and other paperwork. The faster you can get to agreement, the faster we can help you prepare your final marital settlement agreement and file it with the court. We believe that California courts will operate on a first-come, first-served basis: meaning, the faster you can get your paperwork in the queue, the faster you’ll be able to get your final divorce judgement.
9. Think about how you want to divide retirement accounts – and act.
Retirement account division should be part of your financial disclosures paperwork. You should decide whether to divide, equalize, offset or cash out your retirement accounts now, while you’re settling your other key financial matters. There are opportunities to use retirement accounts for spousal or child support. You can learn more about the legal process for dividing retirement accounts here.
10. If your divorce process is stuck or stalled, let us know.
You’re not alone: a lot of couples work through the divorce process, only to see it stall or get stuck at certain points along the way. This is when you might need a little help from an expert. Hello Divorce has California lawyers and legal document assistants (who aren’t lawyers, but they get and do all the paperwork/procedural stuff on a daily basis, at a fraction of the cost) available, on call. You can book flat-rate time on demand with one of our legal experts, and we’ll help you by telling you exactly what to do get to the finish line, ASAP.
11. Get online, and get going
With the current stay-at-home order, it’s going to be next to impossible to find and interview a traditional divorce lawyer, because most still operate on a system that involves manila folders and photocopies. Hello Divorce was set up from the start to operate digitally; giving you the tools, resources and affordable, flat-rate legal assistance that traditional law firms can’t. By utilizing our online divorce platform, you can DIY your way to divorce – or, access a little extra help along the way at a flat-rate fee from our vetted California lawyers.
If you take nothing else from this piece, I want you to remember this: if you’re miserable and you need to leave your marriage, it is absolutely still possible to get a divorce during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Moving online is the best way to move forward – and the most affordable. And Hello Divorce can help you every step of the way.